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Localized High Resolution Electrochemistry and Multifunctional Imaging: Scanning Electrochemical Cell Microscopy

Neil Ebejer, Mathias Schnippering, Alexander W. Colburn, Martin A. Edwards, and Patrick R. Unwin*
Department of Chemistry, University of Warwick.   Analytical Chemistry, 15 October 2010



We describe highly localized electrochemical measurements and imaging using a simple, mobile theta pipet cell. Each channel (diameter <500 nm) of a tapered theta pipet is filled with electrolyte solution and a Ag/AgCl electrode, between which a bias is applied, resulting in a conductance current across a thin meniscus of solution at the end of the pipet, which is typically deployed in air or a controlled gaseous environment. When the position of the pipet normal to a surface of interest is oscillated, an oscillating component in the conductance current is generated when the meniscus at the end of the probe comes into contact with the surface and undergoes periodic (reversible) deformation, so as to modulate the solution resistance. This oscillating current component can be used to maintain gentle contact of the solution from the pipet cell with the surface and as a set point for high resolution topographical imaging with the pipet. Simultaneously, the mean conductance current that flows between the pipet channels can be measured and is sensitive to the local nature of the interface, informing one, for example, on wettability and ion flow into or out of the surface investigated. Furthermore, conductor or semiconductor surfaces can be connected as a working electrode, with one of the electrodes in the pipet serving as a quasi-reference electrode. This pipet cell then constitutes part of a dynamic electrochemical cell, with which direct voltammetric−amperometric imaging can be carried out simultaneously with conductance and topographical imaging. This provides multifunctional electrochemical maps of surfaces and interfaces at high spatial resolution. The prospects for the use of this new methodology widely are highlighted through exemplar studies and a brief discussion of future applications.


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Wed 20 Oct 2010, 10:30